We are slowly getting back into a normal routine around here, with next week as our official start back to school. I figured I would take this week to get reorganized and evaluate the first half of the school year – what worked, what didn’t, what we liked and some things I would like to change.
1. Our school schedule: Trying to juggle school work, caring for the baby and keep up with both the household chores and administrative needs is definitely a challenge. We have had some days where our school day has just not gotten off the ground, whether because of pressing administrative needs or the house was just a mess and needed immediate attention. Early on in the fall I would try to hammer out breakfast, household needs and administrative tasks, and then attempt to start our school day after lunch. I tried this on a handful of occasions, and what I learned (the hard way) is that this schedule DOES NOT WORK! If we aren’t done by lunch, that’s pretty much the day. Our best days start by 930 or 10 AM and wrap up for lunch by 1230. Two hours is long enough for a 5 year old, and this includes one or two 5 minute “wiggle” breaks. When we finish by lunchtime, this (in theory) gives me the rest of the afternoon to handle phonecalls, cleaning and other household tasks.
2. Subjects covered: Its important in my opinion to cover the basics pretty much every day. We read, do some writing, and unless she is so tired that we are on the verge of a tantrum, we try to get some of our math work done. We are also involved in a small co-op where we cover Social Studies and Science, so we need to cover reading and mapwork before our Wednesday co-op day. When I plan our weekly schedule, I plan for daily math and language arts work everyday and co-op prep work (Story of the World and Encyclopedia readings, Science reading, mapwork) for Mondays and Tuesdays. Because we meet for co-op on Wednesdays, I do not plan for much additional work in other subjects that day. I may have a page of math problems and some reading, but nothing intensive.
We are also doing Five in a Row, so at the beginning of the Fall, I had us “rowing” a book over two weeks, typically three days one week, and then another two days the following week. While I would plan to read on a particular day, I have always tried to be flexible on changing which day we read, since we have two weeks to get it done. The last couple of weeks before our Christmas break, I have attempted to cover the last two books over a week for each one. As long as I keep us on task once we start our day, rowing five days straight does seem doable. Additionally, because we are using FIAR as a supplement to, rather than our core curriculum, we tend to row a book and discuss the topics, rather than spending extended time doing projects or crafts. For this reason, I think it should be reasonable to get through a single book in a week.
At the beginning of our school year, I purchased three Intellego unit studies that I intended for us to work through – Astronomy, Civics:Symbols, and Geography:Maps. We have started each, but have not covered as much as I envisioned. We haven’t had time to move very far into our Astronomy unit, much to my disappointment. Geography – we did not go into as much detail for a couple of the topics due to her age and interest, but I think we have been making progress, though it has been slow. Civics has been similarly successful. Very slow moving – we spent most of our time on the flag, talking about it, and being able to recognize the details – how many stars and stripes, what each stands for. We just recently moved on to the next chapter, which covers songs. So far, we have only covered the Pledge. I put a flag in our classroom, and we started our day with the Pledge for a week or two, and now she has it memorized. Success! Overall, I think I am happy with the units. I think covering the material really comes back to our scheduling. I have to accept the fact that we will not move through as fast as I had originally planned, but that we can cover all the topics if I just plan our schedule out better.
We still don’t have a dedicated plan for art or music. I let Kyri have free craft time as much as time will allow, but I would like to incorporate something a little more constructive into our school schedule. For music, we are still using Music and Me material she had from her time at La Petite, but I would like to have something else – Wee Sing perhaps, where we spend dedicated time learning songs together. I think this will be one of goals for our next library trip.
So far we have not done exercises specifically working on critical thinking and logic skills. I just ordered Lollilop Logic however and will start incorporating individual pages into our daily workload as extra material. We are also incorporating board and card games into our routine, which I think will be a great experience.
3. Nature Studies: While we have spent a fair amount of time outdoors, I think we should be doing more, or rather doing things with more focus. She has been learning about gardening (the basics) and birds, but I would like to spend more time in this area, especially while the temperature is tolerable. We have membership at the Botanical Gardens and I want us to spend more time there, learning about the different habitats and types of plants. I have also discovered letterboxing (it was suggested in our Geography unit study) and I think Kyri would really get a kick out of this, and it is less technical than geocaching.
4. Character building: I have been considering something for teaching character basics – Book of Virtues, something along those lines. I thought this might get covered in Girl Scouts, and Kyri seemed interested in joining, but as with ballet, I think she likes the IDEA of doing Girl Scouts a lot more than actually doing it, so GS might not happen. A character study might be good for us to incorporate I think. Once I shop around I’ll do a write up on what we choose.